For the second consecutive Sunday, rookie Kris Tamulis will have a chance to win her first Futures Tour tournament. And after two rounds in the $60,000 M&T Bank Loretto Futures Golf Classic, the Floridian moved closer to making that goal a reality.
'I think it's pretty close,' said Tamulis of Naples, Fla., who carded a second-round 69 today for a share of the lead with Allison Hanna at 5-under-par 137. 'I've been giving myself great opportunities. It's not an accident that I'm here two weeks in a row. Now, I just hope I can finish it off.'
Tamulis had that chance a week ago in New Hampshire, but got nipped by a tour-record 62 in the second round by eventual winner Erica Blasberg. She'll have a shot again in Sunday's final round, but will have to get past Hanna, the recent Ohio State University grad who is playing with confidence and consistency.
Hanna, also a rookie, carded a 68 today at The Links at Erie Village with three birdies, no bogeys and a belief that she also is getting a second chance to close out a Sunday lead.
'I'm always ready,' said Hanna, who held the lead going into the final round of her professional debut in Indiana in late May. 'Since then, I've gotten more relaxed and I've refocused. I just gave up my college golf bag. Now I know you have to go out there, be yourself, have fun and just play your game.'
Playing the game was more difficult today than it was in Friday's opening round on the par-71, 6,224-yard course strewn with water hazards. Several holes tripped up players all day, giving the leader board erratic swings throughout the round.
First-round co-leader Melanie Wilhite of Clarksville, Tenn., held the lead through nine holes, but found the water on the 11th for a double bogey. Wilhite dropped four more shots by the finish. The tricky par-5 seventh hole had 32 bogeys or worse, as tee shots were squeezed between tight out-of-bounds stakes on the left and a large water hazard on the right toward which the wind was blowing.
Veteran Michelle Murphy grabbed the lead from Wilhite after No. 8, but gave back shots on her next two holes with bogeys. It wasn't until the 16th hole that the former LPGA Tour member clawed her way back into a tie for the lead with a 10-foot birdie putt. But a bogey at the 17th and a 20-foot birdie chance on the last hole that stopped two inches short left Murphy a shot behind going into Sunday.
'I had a lot of close putts I didn't make,' said Murphy, of Tacoma, Wash., who finished the day at even-par 71 to drop into a tie for second with Linda Ishii at 4-under 138.
The putts that Murphy missed, Ishii made. She fired a 4-under-par 67 on a day in which she hit 17 greens in regulation. 'My putting has been hurting all year long, so this is very satisfying because I made a lot of clutch putts today,' said the Los Angeles native.
Especially satisfied was rookie Virada Nirapathpongporn of Bangkok, Thailand, who fired her season-low round of 67 to move into a tie at 3-under 139 with Seul Ki Kim of Incheon, Korea and Nicole Perrot of Vina del Mar, Chile.
The former Duke All-American three-putted from 30 feet on the 16th, then birdied the 17th, 18th and first hole. She added three more straight birdies on her second nine at holes 7, 8 and 9 to post her first round in the 60s since turning professional in May. For the first time all year, 'NP3' finally climbed onto the leader board.
But a fight to the finish in Sunday's final round is almost certain. Will it be Murphy, the veteran, who outwits the field? Will it be Hanna, Tamulis, Nirapathpongporn or Kim -- all rookies looking for their first pro title? Will it be Perrot, winning her second season title? Or will it be fourth-year pro Ishii, eager to add a third Futures Tour title?
'I think it will be fun,' said Tamulis, of Sunday's final round. 'It's definitely something you work for and why you grind it out, out there. All I can do is play my best.'
Seventy-six players in the 144-player field made the 36-hole cut at 149 (+7).
Sundays final round will begin at 8 a.m. from the first tee only, with the leaders going off at 11:45 a.m.